Articles Posted in Energy

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On February 27, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and held that international organizations, such as the World Bank, while being protected by the International Organizations Immunities Act of 1945 (IOIA), are not absolutely immune from lawsuits filed in federal court because the protections afforded by the IOIA are tempered by the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). The case is Jam, et al. v. International Finance Corp.

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On March 1, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decided National Parks Conservation Assoc. v. Todd T. Simonite, Lieutenant General, et al. The case involves an application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) for a construction permit to build electric power lines over the “historic James River, from whose waters Captain John Smith explored the New World.”

The Corps concluded after reviewing the thousands of comments submitted to it in connection with this application, and after considering the views of several government agencies and conservation groups, that an Environment Impact Statement (EIS) was not required, and that its Environmental Assessment assured the Corps that the project would not result is significant environmental impacts. The Court of Appeals has concluded that, based on this evidence, the Corps’ refusal to prepare an EIS thoroughly discussing all these points was arbitrary and capricious. The Corps has been ordered to prepare the EIS and to take special note of its obligations under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), the Clean Water Act (CWA) and its obligations under the National Historic Preservation Act.

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Most companies have been involved in a situation where they want to end their relationship with another company, or with an employee, and to permanently terminate their mutual obligations (e.g., a settlement agreement resolving end-of-project litigation). In 1992, a California Court of Appeals, in Winet v. Price, confirmed that upholding general releases is “in harmony… with a beneficial principle of contract law: that general releases can be so constructed as to be completely enforceable.”

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President Trump signed an Executive Order yesterday January 31, calling on executive branch departments and agencies to encourage recipients of defined types of new federal awards to use cement, iron, steel, aluminum and certain manufactured products produced in the United States. The order builds on prior authority (Executive Order 13788 (April 18, 2017)) focused on procurements by the departments and agencies themselves. The new order extends the “Buy American” conversation to private parties that receive new support, to promote the use of domestic sources in their onward purchases.  It addresses programs that receive Federal financial assistance, 2 C.F.R. § 200.40, for creation, maintenance or repair of infrastructure projects.

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Recently, our colleagues Amanda Halter, Stella Pulman and Ashleigh Acevedo published their Client Alert titled BSEE Decommission-in-Place Discussions Present Opportunity discussing the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s (BSEE) Request for Information Regarding Potential Impacts of Decommissioning-in-Place of Pipeline-Related Infrastructure in Deepwater.  Takeaways include:

  • BSEE is asking for input on technical, safety and environmental and other factors that should be included as decom-in-place decision-making considerations for pipeline infrastructures in deepwater on the Outer Continental shelf (OCS).
  • Companies with potentially affected assets have an opportunity to advance more predictable and holistic decision-making by commenting on whether and under what circumstances the BSEE should allow decommissioning-in-place of these pipeline-related infrastructures.

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On January 14, the Colorado Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (Commission) properly declined to undertake a rulemaking proceeding that was designed to preclude the Commission from issuing new permits unless the “best available science,” as confirmed by the findings of an independent third-party organization, determines that the drilling will occur in a manner that does not cumulatively impair the state’s atmosphere, water, wildlife, land resources and does not contribute to climate change. The case is Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, et al., v. Martinez, et al.

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The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) recently posted final adopted text for amendments to the CEQA Guidelines.  The result of over five years of development efforts by the Governor’s Office of Planning & Research and CNRA, the amendments are the most comprehensive update to the CEQA Guidelines since 1998.  In “Natural Resources Agency Finalizes Updates to the CEQA Guidelines,” Pillsbury environmental attorneys Norman F. Carlin, Kevin Ashe and Eric Moorman explore the wide range of issues covered in the amendments, including the new Vehicle-Miles-Traveled (VMT) methodology for analyzing transportation impacts; use of regulatory standards as significance thresholds; environmental baselines; and numerous procedural and technical improvements.

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Pillsbury attorneys Stephan E. Becker, Charles F. Donley II, Emily B. Erlingsson, Brian E. Finch, Aimee P. Ghosh, Meghan C. Hammond, Gerry Hinkley, Laura E. Jennings, The Honorable Gregory H. Laughlin, Jeffrey S. Merrifield, Elizabeth V. Moeller, Matthew Oresman, Craig J. Saperstein, Edward W. Sauer, and  Deborah S. Thoren-Peden discuss the 2018 Midterm Election and assess some of the top issues where the incoming 116th Congress will likely be most active, including:

  • Congressional Investigations
  • Financial Services
  • Tax Reform
  • Cybersecurity and Privacy
  • Foreign Policy, International Trade, and Sanctions
  • Energy and the Environment
  • Transportation and Aviation
  • Health Care
  • State and Local Government
  • Compliance, Ethics, and Campaign Reform

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Pillsbury energy partner Rob James and Environmental senior associate Stella Pulman co-authored Energy 2019: USA, in which they provide an overview of the current U.S. energy marketplace and discuss

  • Ongoing incentives at the state level for offshore wind, other forms of renewable power, and electric storage;
  • Impacts of dueling tariffs and trade restrictions on the energy industry;
  • Reversals of federal policy on greenhouse gas emissions and on lands open to hydrocarbon development;
  • The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s decision in Calpine v. PJM Interconnection and its consequences for wholesale electricity markets; and
  • Cybersecurity and blockchain developments affecting the national grid.

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On October 18, the Illinois Supreme Court decided the case of Ameren Transmission Co. of Illinois v. Hutchings, et al. According to the Illinois Supreme Court, there is no presumption that Illinois courts have subject-matter jurisdiction over administrative actions. The availability of any review of this determination was controlled by the Public Utility Act (PUA), and under that law, the Circuit Court had no authority to assess the constitutionality of the Illinois Commerce Commission’s (Commission) proceedings when it was sitting as a court of general jurisdiction.

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